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February 7, 2011
Summary: This policy brief examines European best practices regarding urban integration of high speed rail (HSR) stations to maximize local economic and sustainable urban development benefits. The research goal was to identify lessons for cities in North America, especially in California, to achieve sustainable development through coordinated land use and transportation planning around HSR stations. This brief summarizes research conducted in Europe from February-May 2010 as a Comparative Domestic Policy Fellow for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, drawing on literature review, site visits, and interviews with transportation professionals, urban planners, academics, and government officials in Italy, France, Germany, and Spain.
Planning High Speed Rail Stations for Sustainable Urban Development: European Case Studies
by Matt Nichols1
Introduction High speed rail (HSR) is a relatively new and rapidly expanding transportation mode, one with potentially powerful benefits for local economic development and urban form around the stations. European cities have long been shaped by rail transport, but HSR service is creating new dynamics, with new opportunities and challenges. Cities are seeking to maximize the benefits of HSR through coordinated transportation and land use planning, strengthening integrated mobility options that promote smart growth and livable communities. High speed rail is defined by the European Union as rail service traveling at 160 mph (250 km/h) or faster on new track, or 200 km/hr on existing tracks. Tracks are continuous welded rail, and trains are electrically-powered via overhead lines, for a very smooth and quiet ride. HSR further reduces travel times by eliminating roadwaylevel crossings and by not sharing the right-of-way with freight or slower passenger trains. Japan opened the first HSR system, the Shinkansen — often referred to as the Bullet Train — in 1964. France established HSR in 1983 with the opening of the Paris-Lyon Train à Grande Vitesse (high-speed train), or TGV. HSR expanded with the Eurostar line to the U.K. and in Germany, and began to grow dramatically in the 1990s with rapid national expansion in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere. In Asia, Korea and China built major HSR systems. Worldwide, HSR grew from approximately 3,100 to 6,200 miles (5,00010,000 km) between 1997 and 2009. In 2009, an estimated 13,500 km of HSR was under construction. Planning was underway for an additional 17,600 km, with approximately half of the planned growth in Europe. The United States joined the HSR club in 2008, when a federal allocation of $8 billion provided support for nine HSR projects. In California, $2.35 billion in federal funds and a $9.95 billion 2008 state bond have given momentum to the planned HSR system, which would run 800 miles between 28 stations, and
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1 Matt Nichols is the principal transportation planner for the City of Berkeley, California. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or the City of Berkeley.
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HSR station area developments have revitalized vacant industrial areas, attracted commercial and residential development, and leveraged major infrastructure investments.
make travel possible from Los Angeles to San Francisco in as little as 2 hours and 38 minutes. This has tremendous potential to transform California’s transit system and the cities where stations will be built. High Speed Rail and Urban Land Use From the start, policymakers recognized the enormous potential of HSR to shape urban form and stimulate economic development. Japanese HSR stations were intended to reduce low-density suburban development by concentrating new growth in mid-sized transit-oriented urban centers. France also coordinated HSR investment with land-use and economic planning to harness the urban economic growth potential of HSR service. A great deal has been learned over the past 45 years about these impacts. In the best cases, HSR has had strong positive benefits on the economic vitality of cities, increasing property values, creating jobs, and attracting new private investment. HSR station area developments have revitalized vacant industrial areas, attracted commercial and residential development, and leveraged major infrastructure investments. The cumulative benefits of high speed rail on local and regional growth have been referred to as “The HSR Effect.” In fact, results have been mixed, and HSR does not automatically deliver positive benefits to all stations. Some stations remain disconnected and uninspiring; some cities experience few ripple effects from HSR developments. This brief will focus on several notable case studies where European cities have succeeded in harnessing the impact of HSR to great advantage. Seeking the “HSR Effect” In most cases, national policies and politics have played a large role in determining initial HSR routes and stations. Existing rail connections with high ridership, such as the Eurostar from the U.K. to Paris, have been obvious choices for HSR conversion. France has sought to use HSR lines and station sites to generate economic transformation in former industrial areas. In Spain, the HSR network was conceived to shorten travel times from all major cities to Madrid to promote national economic integration. At the local level, a variety of engineering, economic, and political criteria have been used to determine the location of the HSR stations. Cities with established central train stations most often simply expand to accommodate HSR service. Other cities, such as Lyon, seized the opportunity to create a new, second central business district, placing the station in an underdeveloped area and creating a station area plan and policies to attract and support growth. Still others are constructing their HSR urban tracks and stations underground, and utilizing the new surface area for urban parks and to support growth. Many places are also investing heavily in light-rail and bus and bicycle connections to the HSR stations, leveraging the major HSR infrastructure investments to develop integrated mobility options with multiple benefits to the economy and the community. For this brief, strategies for achieving the desired HSR effect have been placed into three categories, and one or more European case studies are discussed in each category. A. Integrated Station Area Planning Cities should create and implement a master plan that will guide future development around the station. Investments for station area development, local transit, and other infrastructure can be financed with taxes or policy mechanisms that capture a portion of the increase in value of land around successful HSR stations. B. Make Local Connections Strong local transit access is essential for HSR success: even though high-speed trains cannot travel as fast as airplanes, they can deliver travelers into the center of their destination city, rather than to an airport far outside of town. To provide a fast and convenient door-to-door travel experience, HSR stations should be centrally located, supported
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by good local transit, and integrated into a dense, mixed-use urban setting. C. Creating Great Places Policymakers and urban designers are increasingly recognizing the “place-making” power of HSR stations. HSR stations will be used by tens of thousands of people, so cities should take advantage of the opportunity to create memorable urban places, with new parks and open space as well as residential and commercial growth. In Europe, “undergrounding,” the use of tunneling and cutand-cover construction to cover over rail track, rail yards, and stations, has been a major element of HSR station development. The new land created on top of rail facilities offers huge opportunities for creating new urban places. HSR stations can also provide iconic architecture, and other urban design features to create more attractive places for business and tourism. Case Studies In 2010, I visited several cities in Europe to investigate their experiences with high speed rail stations. Lyon, France, provides an excellent example of the value of Integrated Station Area Planning. Madrid, Spain, has made incredible progress expanding local transit and multi-modal stations, which connect its HSR stations to the larger city. Barcelona, Spain, has just begun a major “urban place-making” project, which is creating a new HSR station area with housing, retail, and public parks. Lyon, France Lyon, in southeastern France, is the second largest French city with a population of approximately 1.2 million, and is an important business center. In 1981, it was the first major provincial city served by the French high speed rail, the TGV. The 5-6 hour trip from Paris to Lyon was reduced to just 2 hours. HSR travel between Paris and Lyon attracted many riders immediately, while airline service between the two cities decreased. Before the TGV, 31 percent of travelers between Paris and Lyon went by airplane; this share dropped to just 7 percent after TGV. Prior to the opening of the TGV, many had feared that it would hurt regional business by opening Lyon to greater competition from Paris. Instead, local businesses benefitted from being able to conduct business more easily with Paris, and Paris-based companies opened regional offices in Lyon. Research also found that HSR did not simply switch air trips to the train, but actually increased total trips. Nearly half of all travel between the two cities was estimated to be new, trips that had not occurred prior to HSR service. Growth in travel was largely from increased business travel from Paris-based firms traveling to subsidiary offices, and from Lyon-based businesses going to Paris. Tourism travel to Lyon also grew. Within Lyon, many businesses chose to locate near the new HSR rail station, Gare Part-Dieu. By 1990, the station area was attracting 60 percent of new development projects in the city, and the amount of office space in the area grew by 43 percent. Today, the Part-Dieu area hosts 20,000 jobs and some 5.3 million square feet of office space. It is notable that Lyon chose not to locate the HSR station at its existing Lyon Perrache station in the constrained historic city center. The city center, located on a densely populated island, suffered from extreme traffic congestion,
Prior to the opening of the TGV, many had feared that it would hurt regional business by opening Lyon to greater competition from Paris. Instead, local businesses benefitted from being able to conduct business more easily with Paris, and Parisbased companies opened regional offices in Lyon.
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and offered few opportunities for growth. In fact, Lyon had already adopted a policy to shift development away from the physically constrained downtown, and to create a second urban center well before the development of the TGV. The city developed a major new commercial area to the east of the center of town, which included the new Lyon Part-Dieu TGV station. Following the opening of TGV service, a major office center, shopping mall, library, hotel, and residential developments were built around the station. Many area businesses subsequently moved their offices to the Part-Dieu area to benefit from easy access to the TGV. Lyon was able to make good use of two French planning policy mechanisms that can be used by local government to influence development. The ZAD (Zone d’Amenagement Différé, or Deferred Development Zone) was used to stop land speculation by giving the government the right to buy land at a price set prior to the opening of the rail system. This meant that increases in land value around rail stations were accrued by the government. In addition, the ZAC (Zone d’Amanagement Concerte, or Concerted (focused) Development Zone) was used to actively promote development. Under the ZAC, the local government was able to purchase land surrounding the station for development. They then created a master plan, installed basic infrastructure, including public transportation, and sold the land to developers. Developers were required to follow the master plan, and in exchange received tax and permit benefits. Since the opening of the TGV, Lyon has invested heavily in an excellent metro system, light rail trams, high-quality trolleybuses, and a bike sharing service. Each of these serves the Part-Dieu TGV station. According to local property agents, factors that induced growth near the station included easy pedestrian access, customer convenience, heavy foot traffic, and the high-visibility of buildings and firms from the trains themselves. Coming full circle, Lyon is now focusing its energy on the abandoned industrial area south of the Lyon Perrache train station. The “Confluences” project is redeveloping abandoned industrial lands and rail yards into housing and commercial development to capitalize on the location, which is well served by HSR and local transit and is not as congested as the now bustling Gare Part-Dieu area. Madrid, Spain Spain’s AVE (Alta Velocidad Española) HSR system grew from a national vision of improving access to the capital, Madrid, which is located in the center of the country. The first line, Madrid to Seville, opened in 1992. In 2005, the Spanish government launched an ambitious rail expansion plan, which envisioned 90 percent of the population living within 30 miles (50 kilometers) of an HSR station by 2020. Since then, four new lines have opened, and another 1,380 miles will be completed by 2012. Major traffic congestion and the establishment of HSR service spurred Madrid to expand its local transit system. Although the city has had a subway since 1919, Madrid began expanding very rapidly in the mid-1990s, making it one of the fastest growing transit systems in the world. From 1995-1999, 35 miles of new track were laid and 38 new stations opened. From 1999-2003, another 34 miles of track and 36 more stations were built. This construction included adding service to Madrid’s southern suburbs with a huge loop called MetroSur. Yet another 35 miles of subway and 43 stations were added between 2003 and 2007. A light rail system, Metro Ligero, also opened in 2007. More recently, subway expansion has slowed, with just six miles and seven new stations built since 2007, but the city continues to expand its bus system and is completing several suburban rail projects. As a result of this remarkable growth, the Madrid Metro system is now the sixth longest in the world, even though Madrid is just the 50th most populous metropolitan area. HSR service also had a noted effect on urban areas near Madrid, mostly notably the town of Ciudad Real, which was a very small, relatively inaccessible town before 1992. When the first AVE line opened, people were able to travel from Ciudad Real to Madrid in less than an hour, and the town grew about 15 percent over the past decade. Today, many residents commute every day to Madrid. HSR service between Cuidad Real and Madrid increased from 18 train cars per day in 1992 to 47 in 2005, and HSR today essentially operates as a rapid commuter service to the capital. This access has created an unanticipated class of HSR commuters referred to as “Avelinos.” However, Cuidad Real has not simply become a distant bedroom community to Madrid. It has also succeeded in transforming itself into a
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regional university and business center, and a significant number of people now commute in the reverse direction, from Madrid to Ciudad Real. Barcelona, Spain Currently, Spain’s largest HSR infrastructure and land use project is in the city of Barcelona. The capital of the autonomous Catalonia region, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city, with approximately 1.6 million inhabitants, and is the center of the regional metropolitan area with approximately 5 million. projected to handle 100 million passengers per year. It will also be a major transit hub, with a metro station and local rail services integrated into the station. A massive tunnel is being built under the city to connect HSR service between Sants and La Sagrera stations. The La Sagrera project also represents a significant HSR station area “urban place-making” opportunity, with 400 acres of land 2.3 miles in length. The project is incorporating several obsolete industrial areas and the decommissioned Sant Andreu military facility. One hundred and eighteen acres are planned as urban park open space, achieved in large part by using “cut and cover” construction to make new urban land on top of 94 acres of track and rail yards. The plan outlines 17.2 million square feet of built space, including 12,887 new dwelling units (of which 43 percent are low-income subsidized housing) and 7.1 million square feet of office, hotel, and other commercial space. The overall Sagrera project is estimated to cost 2.24 billion euros. Of this, about 50 percent is expected to come from the national, regional, and city budgets; and 50 percent from the sale of land, offices, and hotels to private developers. Barcelona began construction of La Sagrera station in March 2010. Mayor Hereu of Barcelona welcomed the project, pointing out that the station was the biggest public investment project in the whole of Spain. The mayor highlighted the importance of the linkages resulting from HSR investment, saying, “La Sagrera is a basic piece in the mobility system of the Barcelona of the future. It is a major communication hub that links city neighborhoods, the metropolitan area, the capitals of Catalonia, and the city with the rest of Europe.” Like Madrid and elsewhere, Barcelona has also built an extensive transit system of metro, commuter rail, and buses to serve HSR passengers and to reduce urban traffic congestion. In April 2010, a new 2.1 mile segment of underground metro, including four new stations, went in to operation. Operating on an automated driverless system, this line will connect directly into La Sagrera station; completing one of the final elements of what will be Europe’s longest metro line.
In 2008, AVE started service from Madrid to Barcelona and within its first year attracted 1.5 million passengers who had previously flown.
In 2007, 90 percent of travelers between Barcelona and Madrid flew, making it the busiest air route in Europe and one of the busiest in the world, with 4.6 million annual passengers on 45,000 flights. In 2008, AVE started service from Madrid to Barcelona and within its first year attracted 1.5 million passengers who had previously flown. Train travel between the cities increased from 600,000 passengers taking a 4 hour and 35 minute ride per year to 2.4 million passengers per year taking a 2 hour and 35 minute journey on HSR. The HSR station in Barcelona, called Sants, was nearly doubled in size to manage the volume of AVE service. An entire subterranean bus terminal and 2,300 space parking lot were constructed, and 840,000 square feet of commercial space, including a hotel, were built on the site. Barcelona also recently began construction of a second HSR station, called La Sagrera, in the northern Sant Andreu district of the city. La Sagrera will become the main station for HSR travel to France and Western Europe, and is
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The “cut and cover” method being used for place-making at La Sagrera was also used with great success in Cordoba, also on the original Madrid-Seville line. There, the HSR covered over the existing track that ran through the center of the city, and the city constructed hotels, offices, a conference center, and housing centered around a beautiful linear urban park built directly atop the tracks. The AVE station and adjacent bus terminal became an important regional transportation hub, and Cordoba has been transformed from an industrial center of a rural province to a growing regional services center, and increasingly popular tourist attraction. Conclusions These case studies are inspiring and instructive examples of the HSR effect. Lyon’s integration of land use planning with its HSR station site selection resulted in successful economic development and urban development. Madrid’s place at the hub of Spain’s national high speed rail network is served at the local level by an incredible investment in local and regional transit. Barcelona and Cordoba have literally created new land, providing both green, open space and urban opportunities in these historic, built-out cities. There are, to be sure, many other critical variables and dynamics to consider regarding HSR station area development. While the cities I visited are important examples of success, there are also places that have largely failed to receive benefits from HSR service. Their experience also helps illuminate the factors that affect the level of benefits delivered by HSR. Both the successes and failures underline the importance of the station site selection and the station-area urban planning process in determining the success of the station. Greengauge, a U.K. HSR planning organization, states that the “…selection of the location of the high-speed line station is critical. It must be developed in line with a master plan, one that fits high-speed rail into the strategy for the city as a whole. The station location has to fit with the city strategy. The opportunity for regenerating rundown and disused areas may include railway land and redundant industrial area.” In contrast to Lyon’s Part Dieu success, most of the first Paris-Lyon TGV route ran through unpopulated rural areas, and some stations were criticized for being too far from an existing town to be convenient and too far from connecting railway lines to be useful. Such stations became known as “Beet Stations,” which is derived from the criticism of the Haute Picardie station, which remained surrounded by sugar beet fields even after TGV opened. The Le Creusot station also failed to induce economic development. The station location was selected to offer access to an economically undeveloped area, with the hope that the station would grow into a local activity center. This has not occurred, and studies have found that the poor access limited the benefits of the TGV. The station was placed far from downtown, primarily accessible by car, with poor transit links to nearby towns. France carefully studied and learned from their initial experiences with HSR and development. For the second TGV line, the national railway company formed a property development subsidiary, which actively promoted development. In Le Mans and Nantes, they successfully promoted infill near stations even before the stations were constructed. In Spain, the national agency Adif now manages all station construction, and is increasingly focused on adjacent development and retail opportunities within stations. Both the successful case study cities I visited as a Comparative Domestic Policy Fellow and the less successful places each provide important lessons for High Speed Rail development in the United States.
California’s public leaders and development community should take advantage of the growth expected from HSR by creating plans and programs to encourage and guide development around stations.
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Based on European HSR experiences, California’s proposed HSR system can be expected to reinforce population and employment growth trends towards the largest cities in the regions serves, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco. California HSR will also serve the rising numbers of people in the sprawling Central Valley and will likely favor agglomeration into the larger Central Valley cities where HSR stations are being planned. Despite billions in investment, developing more dense urban centers and improving connections will pose major challenges to many cities, particularly where essential transit extensions may be hard to achieve given economic constraints across the state. California’s public leaders and development community should take advantage of the growth expected from HSR by creating plans and programs to encourage and guide development around stations. Planning for HSR stations in California should focus on the creation of activity hubs, using integrated transportation and land use planning, investments in local transit connections, and excellent urban design. Fortunately, top transportation and land use planners are working with California lawmakers on HSR and land use policy, and others are working directly with cities on station area plans. The Urban Land Institute held a statewide conference on transit oriented development at HSR stations in September 2010. The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) just published Beyond the Tracks: The Potential of High-Speed Rail to Reshape California’s Growth. In Southern California, cityLAB, an urban design think tank affiliated with UCLA, received a $250,000 grant to study the urban implications of high-speed rail. At the same time, land use and transportation planning throughout California is also changing rapidly, particularly in response to the state’s landmark Climate Change Senate Bill 375. At the birth of high speed rail in the United States, it is critically important for American policymakers and urbanists to learn from the valuable experience of our European colleagues. Drawing lessons from both the best cities in Europe and from HSR failures, U.S. leaders can craft policies to leverage major HSR investments and generate lasting economic development, build world-class cities, and maximize the environmental benefits of high speed rail.
At the turn of the 21st century, metropolitan regions are home to nearly three quarters of the population of the United States and Europe and are projected to continue growing. The major economic, environmental and social transformations shaping these nations over the next century, as well as the severe economic crisis facing them today, will necessarily play out in urban contexts. Thus, the metropolitan built environment, its impact on the natural environment, and the resources available to citizens will be crucial for successfully meeting the complex challenges facing the transatlantic community. While cities in the United States and Europe face similar policy challenges in related post-industrial contexts, individual communities that attempt to implement creative strategies have limited opportunities to learn from one another’s experiences. Recognizing the necessity for communities to collaborate in crafting approaches to local problems that have global implications, GMF’s Comparative Domestic Policy (CDP) Program provides a framework for dialogue between individuals who make, influence, and implement urban and regional policy on both sides of the Atlantic. At the core of the CDP program is the Transatlantic Cities Network,a durable structure for ongoing exchange among a select group of civic leaders representing 25 cities in the United States and Europe.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpartisan American public policy and grantmaking institution dedicated to promoting greater cooperation and understanding between North America and Europe. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working on transatlantic issues, by convening leaders to discuss the most pressing transatlantic themes, and by examining ways in which transatlantic cooperation can address a variety of global policy challenges. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany on the 25th anniversary of the Marshall Plan as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has seven offices in Europe: Berlin, Bratislava, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, and Bucharest.
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